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“In society, we generally measure what we treasure. Traditionally, schools have measured children’s competence in subject areas. Roots of Empathy measures the affective side of children’s knowledge, understanding, and attitudes.”

– Mary Gordon, Founder/President, Roots of Empathy

Switzerland Roots of Empathy Research Study

Research on Roots of Empathy

Since 2000, the Roots of Empathy program has been evaluated by independent researchers through comparative and randomized controlled studies designed to measure the impact of the program on children’s behaviour and social wellbeing. This research has been conducted in numerous countries across three continents.

Independent research has found that children in the Roots of Empathy program experience:


  • An increase in prosocial behaviours (E.g., sharing, helping, and including)
  • An increase in empathy
  • A decrease in aggressive behaviours, including bullying

Various independent research studies have demonstrated that the Roots of Empathy program has a lasting impact on children.

  • A randomized, longitudinal evaluation conducted by Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland, found that Roots of Empathy had a measurable and positive impact, demonstrating an increase in children’s prosocial behaviour and a reduction in aggressive and difficult behaviour (Connolly, 2018). The study also showed some evidence that the reduction in difficult behaviour may have been sustained for three years beyond program participation.
  • An evaluation of the Roots of Empathy program in Switzerland, 2015-2017, showed a significant decrease in aggression and an increase in empathy in children, when compared with control groups. These results were maintained one year after program completion (Latsch et al, 2017).
  • A randomized, accelerated, longitudinal study conducted in Manitoba, Canada showed a decrease in physical and indirect aggression in children, both immediately and three-years after program completion (Santos et al, 2011). The study also found an increase in prosocial behaviours (sharing, helping, including) in children immediately following the program.

Did you know?

Schonert-Reichl et al (2012) found that children in the Roots of Empathy program were more likely than those in control classrooms to show kindness, as rated by their peers.

Roots of Empathy Citations

The Roots of Empathy program and our founder and, Mary Gordon, have been mentioned in a variety of scholarly articles, research studies, government reports, conferences and symposia, school reports, training documents, annotated bibliographies, dissertations, white papers, and books, in many countries. These mentions cover a wide range of disciplines such as, psychology, education, criminology, business, economics, psychiatry, and neuroscience, etc. LINK TO CITATIONS

Roots of Empathy Symposia

Roots of Empathy is committed to research and the sharing of research.

We share current and relevant research at our Research Symposia. These events are an opportunity to transfer knowledge from leading-edge scientists to policy makers, educators, social workers, health care providers, parents, students and others who work with children.

We record video of the presentations and produce academic proceedings, all of which you can watch and read here.

Watch the presentations and read the proceedings

Research Advisory Board

Allan Schore

Allan Schore


Dr. Allan Schore is on the clinical faculty of the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine. He is the author of four volumes on affect regulation, including his latest, The Science of the Art of Psychotherapy. Dr. Schore is Editor of the acclaimed Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology, and a reviewer or on the editorial staff of 35 journals across a number of scientific and clinical disciplines.
Dan Batson

Dan Batson


Dan Batson received his Ph.D. in psychology from Princeton University in 1972, was a member of the Department of Psychology at the University of Kansas from 1972-2008, and is a Professor Emeritus there. He now has a courtesy appointment as an Adjunct Professor of Psychology at the University of Tennessee. Dan is the author of The Altruism Question: Toward a Social-Psychological Answer (Erlbaum Associates, 1991), the chapter in The Handbook of Social Psychology (4th ed.) on “Altruism and Prosocial Behavior” (McGraw-Hill, 1998), Altruism in Humans (Oxford University Press, 2011), and What’s Wrong with Morality? (Oxford University Press, 2016).
photo of Tom Boyce

Tom Boyce

Doctor, Professor

Dr. W. Thomas Boyce is Professor Emeritus of Pediatrics and Psychiatry and heads the Division of Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics at the the University of California, San Francisco. He was previously the Sunny Hill Health Centre/BC Leadership Chair in Child Development. He is also Co-Director of CIFAR’s Child and Brain Development Program and a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies.
Susanne Denham

Susanne Denham


Susanne Denham is an applied developmental psychologist and Professor of psychology at George Mason University, with M.A. from The Johns Hopkins University and Ph.D. from University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She is also a nationally certified school psychologist. She is the author of two books, Emotional Development in Young Children and, with Dr. Rosemary Burton, Social and Emotional Prevention and Intervention Programming for Preschoolers, as well as numerous scholarly articles and presentations.
Lise Eliot

Lise Eliot


Lise Eliot is Professor of Neuroscience at the Chicago Medical School of Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine & Science. A graduate of Harvard, she received her PhD in Cellular Physiology & Biophysics from Columbia University and completed a post-doctoral research fellowship in Neuroscience at Baylor College of Medicine before turning to public education about brain and gender development. She has published over 60 works, including the books, What’s Going On in There? How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life (Bantam), and Pink Brain, Blue Brain: How Small Differences Grow Into Troublesome Gaps – And What We Can Do About It (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).
Kimberly A Schonert-Reichl

Kimberly A. Schonert-Reichl


Dr. Kimberly Schonert-Reichl is an Applied Developmental Psychologist and a Professor in the Human Development, Learning, and Culture area in the Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology, and Special Education at the University of British Columbia. She is also the Director of the Human Early Learning Partnership. She received her MA in Educational Psychology from the University of Chicago, her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from the University of Iowa, and completed her postdoctoral work as a National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Fellow in the Clinical Research Training Program in Adolescence at the University of Chicago and the Department of Psychiatry at Northwestern University Medical School. Dr. Schonert-Reichl has over 100 publications in scholarly journals, book chapters, and reports and has edited two books on mindfulness in education, including a co-edited book with Dr. Robert W. Roeser Handbook of Mindfulness in Education: Integrating Theory and Research Into Practice (Springer Press, 2016).

Research Policy Guidelines

These guidelines provide information for individuals interested in conducting research that involves the Roots of Empathy and Seeds of Empathy programs. Roots of Empathy recognizes the significance of evidence-based research and adheres to a best practices research model. The organization will accept research proposals from national and international scientists, Postdoctoral Fellows, and Doctoral candidates.

In an effort to respect the children, classroom teachers, Early Childhood Centre Staff, Instructors, administrators and schools, as well as to limit disruptions to classrooms, it is required that research requests be submitted for approval to the Research Review Committee (RRC) at the Roots of Empathy International office prior to the commencement of any research. The RRC will review submitted research proposals to ensure that the proposed projects meet the defined research criteria. More specifically, the committee will determine whether:

  • the proposed research project is aligned with the established goals of the program,
  • the methodology is appropriate and sound, and
  • the process will not disrupt the programs or the classrooms.

The RRC will notify the applicant(s) regarding the final decision, once the proposal has been reviewed. It should be noted that even if the RRC approves a research project, this does not ensure access to a school or an Early Childhood Centre, as the school and/or centre must be willing to participate in the research study.

Submissions should be directed to the Roots of Empathy Research Review Committee, rrc@rootsofempathy.org

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